Matthew tells us the prophet Isaiah predicted that a voice would speak up in preparation for Israel’s Lord coming to his people (Isaiah 40:3). Matthew wants us to understand that John the Baptist is the voice and Jesus is the Lord.
Crowds are coming to John to be baptized. John explains that his baptism is temporary and preparatory. It proclaims the coming of the kingdom (Matthew 3:2). It will be eclipsed when the king comes. The King’s baptism will be with the Holy Spirit and fire (Matthew 3:11).
When Jesus arrives at the water, he asks John to baptize him (Matthew 3:13). Jesus comes up from the water and Matthew gives us a portrait of the Trinity: God the Son in the flesh, God the Spirit as a dove, and God the Father as a voice saying, “This is my beloved son” (Matthew 3:17). This extreme display of God’s presence is meant to ratify Jesus as the one Israel had been waiting for.
Why is this good news?
John’s promise that Jesus will baptize in the Holy Spirit foreshadows the day of Pentecost in Acts 2. On that day, people who put their faith in Jesus were immersed in the waters of baptism but were also immersed in the Holy Spirit.
Jesus identified with us and our sin when he went under the waters in which people had been confessing and repenting. But we are identified with Jesus, his holiness, and his power when we are put under the covering of his Spirit.
Jesus also mentioned a baptism of fire. John elaborates that this fire is one of judgment (Matthew 3:12). Those who do not repent from their sins and put their trust in the Jesus John was proclaiming, would face an unquenchable fire.
This is the baffling beauty of the Gospel. He who has the right to judge the world for their sin takes on their sin instead (Romans 3:26). And we will also be raised to resurrected life, pictured in our rising from the waters of baptism (Romans 6:5). When we are, we will hear a similar proclamation made over us.
We are called sons and daughters of God.
We are adopted into God’s family through Jesus (Romans 8:16). Through the gift and indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we are brought into relational intimacy with the everlasting trinity. That is good news!
See for yourself.
May the Holy Spirit open your eyes to see the God who prepares His people for their savior. And Jesus as the sinless one who takes the place of sinners.